What does a Chief Judge do?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2019
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A chief judge is also known as a chief justice or presiding judge. He or she holds the highest rank when there is more than one judge in a court. This role is found in the highest court in the country, which may be called the supreme or high court. The responsibilities of a chief judge include: hearing complex cases and legal arguments, discussing the case with the other judges and writing the final decision.

This position is the result of an exemplary career as a lawyer and a judge. There are very few chief judge positions available, because of the limited number of courts with multiple judges. The position of chief judge can be rotated between the various judges or be a permanent appointment. The policies surrounding the appointment of a chief judge usually are well defined, and the process is completed by the agency responsible for the appointment of judges to the courts.

The primary responsibility of the chief judge is to hear complex cases. The cases that come to this level of court typically represent social issues, potential miscarriages of justice and government policies. At this level, the judges are responsible for reading all of the court files associated with the case, including the arguments submitted to other judges. In addition to this background reading, the judge s required to read the arguments surrounding the primary issue on which they need to rule.


After reviewing the documentation and listening to the arguments presented by the lawyers, the judges meet and review the issues in detail. The chief judge is responsible for leading the discussion with the other judges, providing structure to meetings and ensuring that all of the relevant research is provided. The details of the case are argued, with a voting process managed by the chief judge.

When a consensus is reached, the chief judge is responsible for writing the final decision. This statement is issued on behalf of all of the judges in the court. It provides details on the votes for and against the motion and the legal basis for the decision. This process is quite lengthy and often is issued five to seven months after the arguments are made.

In addition to these legal duties, the chief judge might be called on for public speaking engagements or leading seminars in the law. Many chief judges write academic books or journal articles about the details of the law and its impact on the broader society. These contributions are not part of the formal job description, but are a common way for judges to have a broader impact on society and the legal system.


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